Thursday, December 22, 2022

Indexing Bias

I think it is well past time that (and other historical archives, academic libraries, and commercial genealogy sites) address their indexing biases. Whether indexing was directly done by humans or by human-written code, I find it ridiculous that all the people mentioned in a will or other documents are not indexed in what is soon to be 2023. 

I am looking at a will right now where an enslaved woman, Lucy, is bequeathed to others in the all too common practice of the time and region. Lucy was a person. Lucy was denied her agency then; she shouldn’t be denied her identity now. It will take time to get this right. Doesn't mean we cannot start.

There is a current feature where I, as the user, can amend the record called ‘Add New Person to Index’. However, it only allows me to save if I provide a last name. Giving her the last name of her enslavers feels wrong and unjust. Lucy will be stuck forever with that name in the digital records world. Also, my options for the relation of the will’s author to Lucy don’t cover this situation. ‘Servant’ and ‘Other’ being only non-familial options. Lucy wasn’t a servant; she was an enslaved person. Other is perhaps painfully ironic but not right. Yes, slavery is shameful but masking it now by erasure and obfuscation is not the right path. 

#genealogy #historicalRecords #slavery #africanDiaspora #FamilyHistory  #SystemicRacism 

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